Should You Settle for an Imperfect House?

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  • When you're buying a house, it can be tempting to wait for the perfect property.
  • Sometimes, a quest for perfection can prevent you from making the right choice about buying a home.
  • An imperfect house can be the best option if you get on the property ladder.

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of a good home.

Buying a house is a big decision, and chances are good you'll have to take on a substantial amount of mortgage debt when you purchase one. Since you'll be shelling out thousands for a down payment and committing to a monthly payment for several decades, it's tempting to want to ensure you find the perfect house before you buy.

Sometimes, however, this quest for perfection can end up costing you in the end. To avoid this fate, you may decide that settling for an imperfect home is the best choice for you.

When does it make sense to settle for an imperfect house

There are a few key situations where it may make sense to settle for a home that doesn't seem perfect to you at first glance.

The biggest reason to buy a house that's not quite perfect is because it's affordable. If buying your dream home would be way over your budget and cause you to devote more than around 30% of your household income to covering housing costs, then you'll have to scale down your expectations and find a home that's just good enough. While this may mean giving up some ideal features, you don't want to push yourself into a property that's out of your reach just to try to find the perfect place.

You may also want to consider settling for an imperfect house if you'd otherwise have to wait many more years to buy your dream home. During that time, you could miss out on property appreciation and building equity, which could set you back in your financial goals.

Finally, settling for an imperfect house could make sense if the things you dislike about it could be changed over time, while its permanent characteristics fit your needs. For example, if you're deciding between a property in a great school district that feels imperfect because some of the aesthetic features don't fit your style and a home that seems more perfect on the surface but that's in a bad neighborhood, you likely should opt for the former because you can change the aesthetic features of a house but not the location.

What imperfections should you steer clear of?

While waiting for the perfect house could be a mistake, you also don't want to end up with a property that won't make you happy in the long run. As a result, there are certain imperfections you probably shouldn't accept.

If a house has a lot of deferred maintenance, for example, then it could end up turning into a money pit as problems crop up due to lack of proper care. If you suspect there could be lots of major and minor issues with the property over time, this is not something you should overlook.

Likewise, there are certain features of a home that may interfere with your happiness in the long term that you can't easily change. If you hate the floor plan or would have a miserable commute or the HOA rules are unlivable, then chances are your purchase will turn out to be a big mistake.

Ultimately, you need to think about the big picture -- and consider whether the house has enough of your must-haves -- before you decide to buy. But while you want to ensure the property is good enough to make you happy, don't let yourself get carried away with looking for someplace perfect -- especially if doing so could mean going over your budget or not being able to buy a house at all.

Our Research Expert

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